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by David Ritz
Remembering. It is what we are supposed to do every November 11. We remember sacrifices our grandfathers (great grandfathers in some cases) made in WWI, and by extension other military conflicts. People who gave up their lives so that others may experience life.
I have stood as a soldier in many November 11th ceremonies, at times part of the firing party in the 21 gun salute, other times just part of the crowd. It was always amazing to me to go back to the legion to sit with the vets as they recounted their stories. Sometimes they were extremely hard to understand, so instead we would just raise our glasses and drink when they did. Young soldiers would stand in awe of the veterans with long lines of medals on their chest. Now it is a time when we even have friends that were lost in conflicts in Afghanistan and other modern conflicts. As a person who has served, you are quietly contemplative of those who have gone before you.
Remembering is an important thing. “Lest we forget” is the slogan of Remembrance Day here in Canada. As a 16 year old when I was in Germany as a high school exchange student, we visited Sachsenhausen in Berlin. A smaller, lesser known death camp. It shook me to the core. Even 50+ years later it was a hauntingly, heavy place to go. I wept when I watched the episode on Band of Brothers when they discovered the death camp. It still gets me.
Why is it important to remember? What role does remembering serve for a believer? The act of remembering is something important to believers. The Scriptures are rife with exhortations to “remember”. In Exodus, before Israel is released from Egypt, just prior to the angel of the Lord slaying the firstborn, the Israelites were told to prepare for the passover. They were given a specific set of instructions for the feast, the function of this feast was to “observe this even as an ordinance for you and your children…And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians but spared our homes.’” (Exodus 12:24,26-27)(All Scripture citations are New American Standard unless otherwise indicated).
After crossing the Jordan river in Joshua 5, they were instructed to take up stones and make a memorial to remember that God dried up the land before them. There are many other narratives, and accounts in the Old Testament of setting up stones, to remember what God had done. Psalms are also filled with remembering many of the accounts to remind Israel how much God pursued them and pulled them out of captivity. Why is this important?
Remembering is important because our memories are so very short. Not soon after witnessing the complete devastation of Egypt, seeing God Himself walk among them (Exodus 24), Israel was worshiping a golden calf. Biblically speaking, it is important for Christians to remember what God has done. It is easy to forget the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:12), sometimes it is good to sit with what God has rescued us out of, and be joyfully grateful. We can look in our current situation and sit in awe of what God may do to rescue and redeem us currently.
Christians are quick to bemoan the commercialism of Christmas, and Easter, or downplay their importance because of “evil” roots, or perhaps sometimes those of us who come from a Protestant, evangelical background may not appreciate the richness of a church calendar, which was designed to remind us about the story of God. But if we think of these events to help remember and contemplate the birth of Jesus, and the most incredible act of love with Jesus’ death on the cross, they become so much more then just another commercialized holiday.
So November 11th. Whatever your leanings are towards pacifism or “grab the shotgun ma!” Take the time to remember and thank God that there were those who were willing (in some cases conscripted), to go and answer the call to stand up to tyrannical forces. Thank God for this time of peace here in North America.
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